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What worrying times we find ourselves in! For many of us, our livelihoods are at stake. Most insurance providers are not covering the loss of earnings from classes closing – and there is no support (as yet) from the government for the self-employed. 😟

Happity has always worked 100% remotely – we’ve tested all the online tools as a team, and we understand some of the challenges that come with working online.

For many of you, I know it may feel quite daunting seeing a business you’ve built up over years potentially closing it’s doors – but we’re here to tell you – it really doesn’t have to be that way! Over the past few days, we’ve been busy trialling the technology and working with class providers to create an online experience equivalent to ‘real life’ classes. We have a vital role to play in reaching out to parents who are possibly facing weeks, if not months, of isolation at home.

Below is a guide on how we would suggest you set up with Zoom and then integrate with the Happity system.

If you are reading this ready to set up, it would be worth reading the below, but we’ve got a quick set up ready for you below.

Quick Set Up

If you’re not yet a Happity Member please register here (or if you already have registered head to your dashboard to enable [email protected])

If / once you’re a Happity member, you need to set up zoom, set up regular classes in zoom, then hook these up to the Happity booking system. This should only take an hour or so, but if you’d like to use our virtual VA service at £18+VAT per hour to set you all up just get in touch ([email protected]).

Zoom

Our tool of choice is Zoom. Having used many different tools, we’ve been using this as our primary tool for the past 3 years and can vouch for it.

It has some great features we think are ideal for running baby & toddler classes – and we’ve also trialled it in a live setting with children.

Read on if you would like to continue your ‘business as usual’ – just in a virtual venue instead of a physical one! We’ll show you how.

Working together as a sector to reach more parents

For parents new to video conferencing, there’s going to be a bit of a challenge. It’s all too tempting to switch off your video and not show your face to the world! So we’re advocating for industry-wide standards amongst all class providers in the baby & toddler sector to make the online class experience a genuinely good one – worth paying for, and to make the transition over as easy as possible.

Once parents have attended one class, they’ll feel safer and more comfortable attending another that uses the same technology – because they’ll know exactly what to expect and how to use their settings.

In fact – we’ve also written a blog for parents which you can share with your customers to help them navigate their settings – it’s been written to be relevant for anyone hosting classes on Zoom. (Please let us know if you have an ideas for improving this!).

Any bookings made for virtual classes via Happity will automatically be sent these instructions in their email confirmation. We’ll also send them the link for the class – both upon booking, and 15 minutes before the class starts.

Getting started with Zoom

It’s really easy to get set up with Zoom and start using it in the simplest possible way – though we do have some tips and tricks for enhancing the experience!

When you sign up for Zoom, the FREE version allows you to host classes up to 40 minutes long. If you need to host a longer session, the pro version is c. £14 per month once tax is included. Bear in mind that with children at home, you won’t have a 100% captive audience so a slightly shorter session than normal may be preferable anyway.

Once you have signed up and installed the app, you can literally click start a ‘new meeting’ – send this link to your attendees and you’re good to go!

Although Zoom technically allows you to host up to 100 participants, we really recommend keeping your classes small and interactive if this is how you would do it in real life.

Zoom lets you see all of your participants on screen at once, using the ‘Gallery View’. Our booking emails also asks parents to add their children’s names to the screen (blanked out below) so that you can interact directly with them during the session. Many kids are used to speaking to grandparents through technology, and they respond so well when you talk to them and know that you can see them. This is where the value of a live class really comes into it’s own – it’s so much better than watching something on YouTube!

Photo by kind courtesy of Little Folk Nursery Rhymes

For parents, it will look more like this:

Photo by kind courtesy of Little Folk Nursery Rhymes

During the class, it’s then really important that you use the MUTE ALL button that can be found in the ‘Participants’ window.

Your customers will not be able to hear you clearly unless you do this – but do encourage your customers to unmute themselves in between songs and get involved!!

Top Tip – You can also increase the volume of yourself vs. the other participants in the room. Click on the up arrow ” ^ ” shown next to the mute button in the bottom left hand corner, and choose ‘Audio Settings…’

Untick the ‘Automatically adjust microphone settings’ box, increase your ‘input volume’, and then tick ‘Automatically adjust microphone settings’ again. This will ensure that your volume is generally louder – whilst also automatically adjusting so that you don’t accidentally deafen anyone. 😅 It’s also great to have this setting, as you can then have the occasional song where everyone unmutes and joins in together. Zoom does a nifty thing of jumping around to display whoever is singing loudest, making for a lovely interactive session!

Equipment

You don’t really need much equipment to get started with your online classes if you have a device with a microphone and camera! However, your biggest challenge with this is going to be having a consistent internet connection, so if you are using a computer DO get a physical wire to plug into your internet, instead of relying on WiFi. Also, having other members of the house streaming Netflix whilst you’re broadcasting a class is a definite No Go!

Setting up your space to make it look good makes it feel a bit more special for your customers and sets you apart from the other participants. Display your logo and have some bright coloured props! Put up a backdrop if you can and make it look unique to you. (If you’re technically inclined, Zoom also allows the option to add a virtual background too!)

On sound – test it out with someone friendly, but generally there is no need to sing through a speaker if you’re in a quiet space and have got a reasonable microphone (and turn up your settings as above).

A Quick Note on Pricing Your Classes

We suggest keeping your prices similar to your normal classes, but consider setting a price for the whole family to attend together instead. Each family will still only take up 1 square of your screen in Gallery View, so unlike in a physical venue, having more children to a household won’t affect the quality of the class delivery for everyone else.

We are also revamping Happity to help direct local parents towards their ‘nearest’ virtual classes – our aim is to help these people become ‘in real life’ customers when all this madness is over! Can you imagine how excited the kids will be when they get to meet you in person?? 😄 Keeping your prices similar to your normal classes will mean you can keep the groups smaller, more interactive, and help parents know what to expect from a real life class.

Making the admin manageable

Using Zoom at it’s simplest is easy peasy – but using it in this way is not quite so manageable when it comes to the admin side! Using the above method, you won’t have a room ID until you start the meeting – you’ll have to make sure to get this link over to each of your customers in time for the class to start each week, and support your customers with changing their settings when they log in.

Luckily there are some great settings in Zoom you can use to make this more manageable!

We’ve also enhanced Happity to make it possible to manage bookings for virtual classes, sending your parents an automated email with your links both upon booking – and before the class starts. We have also made it FREE to join Happity from anywhere in the UK for 1 year during this time of crisis.

Schedule a Regular ‘Room’ for Your Virtual Classes

By setting up a fixed weekly link for your classes, you’ll be able to give your customers advance notice and reduce last minute panic! This will also help your regular customers access your classes from week to week.

By doing this, you can also make use of some of the more advanced features – like adding your logo to the screen, automatically making sure that cameras are switched on, automatically muting participants on entry (if you want to), and using the waiting room feature so that you can check your registers.

How to set up ‘rooms’ for your virtual classes
1) Go to Zoom.us – preferably on a desktop or tablet
2) Click on ‘My Account’
3) Choose ‘Meetings’ – ‘Schedule a New Meeting’

4) Use your class name and select ‘recurring meeting’. Then in the drop down select “no fixed time”.

This creates a unique Zoom link for your classes.

5) Untick ‘Require meeting password’
6) Choose Video Host – ON, Participant – ON
7) Audio – Both


8) Meeting options – Tick ‘enable waiting room’ – this will allow you to view the names of your participants before letting them in and give you an opportunity to check your register before starting each class. By using the Waiting Room feature, you can also add your own logo to Zoom and make it look fancy when people click the link and are waiting for the class to start!
9) Click ‘Save’
10) IMPORTANT: Make a note of your Zoom URL for this particular time slot! You need it to put into the Happity booking system as it will email this link to participants when they book, and again 10 minutes before the start of each class, asking them to join – it will also email you with the link and a list of your customers too, so that you can start hosting it.

Taking Bookings & Promoting Your Class

If you’ve been used to taking cash on the door, you’ll now need to find a way of taking online payments. It’s possible to take free transfers via Paypal, but you’ll need to track your registers manually – and make sure parents choose the ‘friends & family’ option to avoid the hefty fees.

If you’ve chosen to use Zoom to host your classes virtually, you can join the ‘[email protected]’ programme for FREE – we’ve waived membership fees for a year during this crisis. We’re doing a lot of publicity to help raise awareness of virtual baby & toddler classes as a service, and have already appeared on BBC5Live to promote it this week, with more media outlets lined up.

We’ve already revamped everything on Happity make it ready to support bookings for virtual classes – and we’re in the process of making changes to Happity’s popular search facility to help parents find and book online classes.

Our features will make it easy for you to manage your registers, including sales reports, email confirmations and reminders, teacher logins, and the ability to contact all your customers for any given class via email or text. We’ll also help you build your email marketing list.

Anyone sharing Happity pages can tag @HappityApp (and #findyourhappityathome) and we will share on our stories to get people booking!

If you’re already a Happity customer, please click here for instructions on how to set up online bookings for your virtual classes.

If you’re not yet a Happity Member please register here (or if you already have registered head to your dashboard to upgrade – ignore the £37.50 membership charge, we have waived this for a year but haven’t updated the info as more important things right now!).

A quick little note

Although you might think we must be a big bad tech company, Happity is run by a small team of 4 parents who work from home and passionately believe in community and doing the right thing. As a small business just like yours, we’re fighting for survival in these difficult times. We will support any of our members needing help getting set up with their online classes.

We charge just 3% commission on bookings (including VAT) and this goes towards covering the cost of hosting, providing customer support and building the technology. On a £5 transaction we earn 12.5p. (Stripe charges 1.4% + 20p – a payment processor similar to Paypal but better and cheaper! It pays out to your bank account every 3-5 days).

Register with Happity here.

We really hope you found this blog helpful. All we are asking is that you share this article with other class providers if you found it useful.

Happity is a platform helping parents to find local baby & toddler classes. Our passion is connecting people and promoting mental wellbeing amongst vulnerable new parents.

https://www.happity.co.uk
Follow us on @happityapp and tag us with #findyourhappity

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